OC Moms Guide – December 2023

OC Moms Guide - Orange County Events December 2022

‘Tis the season…to get in the holiday spirit! Whatever you choose to celebrate this month, there are SO many fantastic, family-friendly, and (in some cases) totally free Orange County events December has to offer. It was seriously very challenging deciding which ones to include in this post. Because we try to keep it to about a dozen of the most interesting happenings each month, I had to make some hard cuts….

Thankfully, we already have our OC Moms’ Guide To The Holidays 2023 which lists helpful info about local events like:

We’ve even got a post about the Hanukkah Family-Friendly Fun in Orange County!

You’ll definitely want to check those posts out too if you haven’t already!

Plus, most of the places listed below have even more holiday events and activities happening throughout the month. So be sure to check their websites for additional info. This is just a selective highlight from the best of the best for Orange County events December 2023!


The Polar Express at Southern California Railway Museum – Perris

Now-December 31

From their website: “Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, passengers will relive the magic of the classic story as they are whisked away on THE POLAR EXPRESS™ for a magical one-hour trip to the North Pole. Once on board, your car hosts will work their way through the coach and punch your golden ticket before hot chocolate and delicious Walkers Shortbread are served by dancing chefs. Passengers then read along with the classic children’s book, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his helpers board the train to greet passengers and each guest is given the first gift of Christmas – a silver sleigh bell. During the trip, characters on each car lead passengers in caroling and onboard entertainment just like in the film! Each guest will take home a keepsake sleigh bell in addition to the wonderful memories made on this magical trip.”

Tickets start at $50 per adult, $43 per child 2-11 plus fees. Lap children under 2 are free. Active duty military members receive $5 discount per ticket up to 10 tickets with service ID using online checkout code HERO5. 

WinterFestOC – Costa Mesa

Now through January 7, 2023

Celebrate the Winter Solstice and the season of snow with actual snow! From their website: “WinterFest OC is a celebration that brings the magic of winter to Southern California, creating an immersive experience that will leave you captivated and filled with wonder. Embrace the spirit of the season as you create unforgettable memories with loved ones, surrounded by the enchanting sights, sounds, and tastes of winter. Over a million lights, massive holiday decor, and thrilling activities await. From our North Pole Journey immersive experience to our enchanting Ice Trail, a new Snow Play area, a thrilling 150-foot ice tubing slide, carnival fun, festive food, a holiday market, and more – it’s all here!”

General Admission tickets start at $30.99 for Adults and $25.99 for Children ages 3-12. Fees not included. Children 2 and under are free. General Admission includes entry, access to the immersive North Pole journey, snow play, unlimited tubing rides, nightly live entertainment, evening tree lighting show, dazzling light displays, and winter photo opps.


Science Of Gingerbread at the Discovery Science Center – Santa Ana

Now through January 1, 2023

From their website: “Southern California’s LARGEST gingerbread competition is returning to Discovery Cube OC and LA! From the apprentice builder to the professional and everything in between, this display is like no other! In the spirit of building, making and competition, this program features learning experiences designed with the engineer in mind. Win up to $3,500 in prizes!” My son loved making his own candy car racer some years back and looking at all the Gingerbread Houses made by kids all over Orange County.

Included with general admission to the Cube. Ages 15+ $22, Children ages 3-14 $17, and Seniors ages 62+ $19. Children ages 2 and under are free. Parking is $7 per vehicle. Check local magazines for coupons! 

Knotts Merry Farm – Buena Park

Now through January 7

From their website: “Experience a Knott’s Christmas celebration with winter wonderland-inspired décor transforming the entire park into a classic holiday festival, featuring a landscape of thousands of twinkling lights, miles of themed garland, jumbo snowflakes, and a variety of picturesque seasonal settings. Knott’s Merry Farm offers Christmas activities for families and joyful experiences inspired by the spirit of the holidays. This holiday season, park-goers of all ages can enjoy Christmas shows like Home for the Holidays, a musical revue featuring classic Christmas tunes, holiday lights, magical dancing toys, and dazzling snow, all set on an elaborate, transforming wintertime stage. The holiday season at Knott’s Merry Farm also means a return of the beloved ice show starring the famous beagle, the Peanuts Gang, and a cast of world-class ice skaters.”

Included with general Knott’s Berry Farm admission. One day park tickets start at $59.99 for all guests ages 3+. Children 2 and under are free. Discount for active/retired military. Parking starts at $30. Check local magazines and AAA for discounts!

La Habra Tamale Festival – La Habra

December 2

From their website: “La Habra’s first Tamale Festival was held in 2014, and attendance was so great that the City decided that the event should be added to the list of over 100 annual La Habra happenings!  The all-day Festival has grown and draws in about 10,000 attendees annually!  The event features live entertainment on three stages, tamales, food vendors, retail vendors, informational booths, children’s play activities, a cantina, performances from local dance studios, holiday tree lighting, and a Holiday Firework show!  The event also features a free special event shuttle that brings residents and visitors to the festival from convenient off-site parking areas.  Join us in 2023 for the 10th Annual La Habra Tamale Festival and be a part of our local history!​”

Free to attend. Bring money for food, drink, and some activities. Free event shuttles running every 15 minutes from 9am-11pm. 


3rd Annual Santa Ana Winter Village – Santa Ana

December 2-31

From their website: “Ready for an un-brr-lievable celebration? The City of Santa Ana is proud to announce the third annual Santa Ana Winter Village! This month-long event includes family friendly events and activities throughout its entirety. Participants are able to enjoy ice skating, a holiday light show, food vendors, and more. Festivities will also include featured events such as a toy giveaway and breakfast with a special guest. Celebrate the start of the holidays with us as we officially open the Winter Village with a 30 foot tree lighting ceremony [on December 2]. Tree lighting scheduled to begin promptly at 5:30pm.”

Free. Breakfast with Santa on December 9th is an additional cost. See website above for more details and to purchase those tickets. 


Annual Boat Parade Of Lights – Dana Point Harbor

December 8-10

It’ll be a “Candyland” theme at the Annual Boat Parade of Lights this year in Dana Point Harbor. Arrive early and take photos with Santa and/or the Menorah. Stroll through the large themed holiday lights display featuring over 700,000 LED lights including a giant whale sculpture, lighted palm trees, giant beach ball ornaments, the popular “Merry Kiss Me” arch, and more. And then when the sun sets, enjoy twinkling holiday lights for as far as the eye can see.

Free to view the parade from anywhere in the Harbor. Or you can maybe make a reservation for a window view at one of the restaurants on the water. Additional parking is available for a fee at Doheny State Beach and from there you can take a FREE Trolley to the festivities (5pm-10:30 pm).


Christmas At The OC Zoo – Orange

December 9

From their website: “Join us for holiday fun at the OC Zoo! Activities include visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus and holiday crafts for kids. Come see zoo animals receive treat-filled “gifts” and treats hidden inside Christmas trees throughout the day!”

Reservations are not needed. Activities are free with paid zoo admission ($2 per person; ages 2 & under free). Parking fee is is $5 per car on weekends. Zoo coupons/free passes are not valid for this event. 


Festival Ballet Presents The Nutcracker – Irvine

December 9+10, 16+17, 21-24

From their press release: “Festival Ballet Theatre presents the return of its critically acclaimed production of The Nutcracker to the Irvine Barclay Theatre, one of Orange County’s premiere entertainment venues. This production has been delighting audiences in Orange County for 35 years. The Nutcracker, set to Tchaikovsky’s renowned score, opens December 9th with 13 matinee and evening performances running through December 24th. This year Festival Ballet Theatre welcomes back international ballet stars, and families can once again enjoy the pre-show Nutcracker Tea Party as well as the decorated lobby and holiday boutique, full of beautiful gifts, collectables and nutcracker novelties.”

Tickets start at $45 for Adults, $35 for Children. Pre-show Nutcracker Tea Party tickets available for an additional cost. 


Chanukah Wonderland & Menorah Lighting – Laguna Niguel

December 10

Celebrate with Chabad of Laguna Niguel at City Hall as they commemorate 18 years of light in our community and light the menorah. There will be festive treats, fun crafts, and activities for kids!



Menorah At The Outlets – San Clemente

December 12

Celebrate Hanukkah with this outdoor menorah lighting celebration. Festivities this year include a dancing LED 10 foot robot show (yes you read that right!), glow in the dark sticks, music, a balloon artist, crafts for the kids, treats, dreidels, gelt, and more.

Free. Registration is encouraged through the website linked above.


Don’t forget to check out the Hanukkah Family-Friendly Fun in Orange County post, which has even more events happening during Hanukkah. This dreidel-tastic holiday takes place from December 7-14 this year. Many of them are free and all are welcome to participate!


Winter Lights At The Discovery Cube – Santa Ana

December 15-17

From their website: “Winter Lights: A Journey Home magically weaves together an enchanting story of family through the eyes of a tenacious young girl who wants to make the world a better place. The show brings to life unique characters, including a science fairy and a lovable robot crafted from a toaster. Set against the backdrop of the Aurora Borealis, the show blends hope, resilience, and the magic of discovery. With Pamela Winslow Kashani, a Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran, bringing her musical talent, each song explodes with joy and emotion, resonating with audiences of all ages. Winter Lights blends a heartwarming story, with captivating music, and a theater filled with snow to make a perfect addition to any family’s holiday traditions. Book your tickets today and celebrate the holidays, science, and the spirit of the season!”

Tickets include General Admission to the Discovery Cube and Winter Lights Show including the Festival area, and start at $34 for Adults, $31 for Seniors, and $29 for Children ages 3-14. Children 2 and under may sit on a lap for free. Advance purchase through their website linked above is recommended. 


Heritage Hill Holiday Lights – Lake Forest

December 15-17

From their website: “Spend the holiday season with OC Parks at Heritage Hill Historical Park this December! Holiday Lights will take place December 15, 16 and 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. Wander through twinkling light displays during special park hours. Pets are welcome outdoors only on leashes no longer than 6 feet. Please note that no additional entertainment or refreshments will be provided at Holiday Lights. Make sure to bring a camera and take your picture at a variety of holiday-themed photo opportunities! 

Event and parking are free.


Reading In The Redwoods – Newport Beach

December 16

From their website: “Join us for a very special Reading in the Redwoods event! Lead Naturalist Skyler Forche will be telling the oral story, Deer Mother.  Participants will enjoy a relaxing morning under the canopy of our tallest trees. Bring a blanket or towel! Afterward children and their adults will participate in hands-on activities related to the theme of the book.”

$5 per child, pre-registered member or $7 per child, pre-registered non-member. No charge for adults. Register through the website linked above. 


Festival of Kwanzaa Celebration at Pretend City – Irvine

December 27

Pretend City celebrates many special world holidays, and is ending its jam-packed calendar for Orange County Events December 2023 with Kwanzaa! Join them to light a candle on the Kinara and celebrate a new principle through various activities such as a Kufi craft, Kwanzaa storytimes, coloring activity, and more. If you’d like your children to learn the cultural importance of this holiday, or are looking for a family-friendly place to celebrate it together, Pretend City is a great place to do so!

Included with museum admission. $19.95 adults and children over 12 months. seniors $17.95. Military and their families $16.95. Free to members and infants under 1 year old. 


And of course the most important of the Orange County Events December 2023 has to offer? Quality time with your family. All of us at OC Mom Collective wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season!

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Hilary Feldstein Ratner
Follow me on Instagram @EcoFriendlyMama, Twitter @EcoFriendlyMa, and Pinterest @EcoFriendlyMama! Though I was born and raised in New York City, I've lived in SoCal for over ten years now and am proud to call this beautiful and diverse place my home. My husband and I have a son and baby daughter (whom I was 9 months pregnant with when this photo was taken!). Prior to becoming a mommy I spent several years in feature film publicity and acquisitions for Miramax and later as the Creative Executive for Hilary Swank Productions before seguing to the music industry where I did Online Communications for the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares. In my ample pre-parenthood free time, I also freelanced as a script analyst and screenwriter. I am fortunate now to be able to devote all my time to my family, but I still love to write so am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this blog! I am a foodie, avid traveler, environmentalist, preschool board member, and unabashed Disney nut. I can also be found writing about green parenting and eco-conscious living on my personal website, https://ecofriendlymama.com.


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